Technology at their fingertips

Partnership introduces pre-K students to school and computers


Flory Academy of Sciences and Technology pre-kindergarten students learn how to use an iPad to play educational games with help from teacher Jessica Dingman on Aug. 5.

Photo: Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers

Jessica Dingman raised her right index finger as she explained her rules for using the iPad.

“This is your magic finger,” the Moorpark resident said to a table of excited 4- and 5-yearolds. “But this finger can only be used when I tell you. It’s kind of like ‘Simon Says’ but it’s ‘Miss Dingman Says.’”

Dingman is an instructor for a two-week-long pre-kindergarten program at Flory Academy of Sciences and Technology.

The Moorpark and Simi Valley chapter of First 5 Ventura County, a communitybased organization for families with children ages 5 and younger, developed the program to help children who didn’t attend preschool learn what it’s like to be in a classroom before their first day of kindergarten.

First 5 is adding a technology component to the program this year.

A partnership between Moorpark Rotary Club and California Lutheran University allowed First 5 to introduce the youngsters in the pre-K program to new technology.

CLU loaned 30 iPads to the program so that students can use technology in an educational setting.

“The goal (of using iPads) is to introduce the children to technology in the classroom,” said Mary Linn Daehlin, the program director for First 5’s Moorpark and Simi Valley chapter. “We’re hoping to see if it’s something we can work in with some of the other programs we can offer.”

The pre-kindergarten program’s use of iPads aligns with the Common Core, a new curriculum designed to improve students’ understanding of English-language arts and math through 21st century learning methods.

Through the use of educational games and programs, students will practice their reading skills in an engaging, hands-on way. Eventually, using a set of headphones, they’ll be allowed to play letter-sound games independently on the iPads.

Dingman, 23, showed students how to prop up their tablet computers, select icons and use the home button.

She said the children’s first day with the iPads was successful.

“They did great,” said the educator, who recently earned her teaching credential from CLU. “We made observations and talked about things they might know but haven’t been taught structurally with a group.”

Dingman is in the process of earning a master’s degree in teacher leadership and her supplemental authorization in computers and technology from CLU.

She said she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to expand her teaching repertoire.

“This is the first time I’ve done something like this with actual students. As a teacher, (technology) is something I need to be comfortable with.”

Indeed, technology has changed the way educators teach, how students learn and the way teachers and students communicate, a reality that will require students to use their “magic fingers” more and more.

Daehlin said she hopes First 5 can provide similar pilot programs in the future.

--- Published in the Moorpark Acorn on Aug. 9, 2013